The Sidewalk

I remember traveling somewhere as a child seated in the back of my dad’s Nash Rambler station wagon and looking out the back gate at the guardrails along the road. My mind would always wander when we would stop in traffic looking at a rock or a broken bottle or tin can under the rails, and I’d think, “What’s the story behind that getting there? Did it just accidentally fall from someone’s grasp or the back of a truck, or was it thrown there on purpose?”

Of course, I never knew or ever found out, but I would always imagine different scenarios like a clip from a movie of what happened to have whatever it was end up there. Inevitably, I would end up in a contemplative, melancholy state.

Soon thereafter, however, my thoughts would always shift to whether or not anyone, anyone ever, had even noticed this slice of an invisible existence, or was I the only one.

I never figured that one out either.

But that mysterious unknown story… those instances, those little undisclosed, ubiquitous, stories still rise in my mind even today when I find myself by chance gazing upon an unreconciled piece of our world.
The sidewalks of the shopping plaza I work at is cluttered with them daily.

Each scrap of torn ATM receipt,

Each discarded wrapper,
Each melting piece of candy,

Each disgusting wad of gum,
Each wet cigarette butt,
Each copper penny,

Each $10 bill,
Each discarded condom,
Each unopened condom,
Each fallen hibiscus,

Each Styrofoam coffee cup,
Each straw,
Each dead bird,
Each poisoned rat,
Each mangy, abandoned dog,

Each shiftless, homeless bum,
Each grumpy neighbor,
Each rude cashier,
Each irritating mother with her kids,
Each “crazy”,
Each slutty chick,

Each A-hole guy,
Each judgemental parent,
Each uncaring spouse,
Each dreg of this life,
Each drain on your time.

It’s all there on the sidewalk under our feet.

It’s hard to get everything when it rains.
Not because it’s wet, but because you can’t see too well…

…what with the puddles casting up only a reflection.

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The Janitor

The Sidewalk

I remember traveling somewhere as a child seated in the back of my dad’s Nash Rambler station wagon and looking out the back gate at the guardrails along the road. My mind would always wander when we would stop in traffic looking at a rock or a broken bottle or tin can under the rails, and I’d think, “What’s the story behind that getting there? Did it just accidentally fall from someone’s grasp or the back of a truck, or was it thrown there on purpose?”
Of course, I never knew or ever found out, but I would always imagine different scenarios like a clip from a movie of what happened to have whatever it was end up there. Inevitably, I would end up in a contemplative, melancholy state.
Soon thereafter, however, my thoughts would always shift to whether or not anyone, anyone ever, had even noticed this slice of an invisible existence, or was I the only one.
I never figured that one out either.
But that mysterious unknown story… those instances, those little undisclosed, ubiquitous, stories still rise in my mind even today when I find myself by chance gazing upon an unreconciled piece of our world.
The sidewalks of the shopping plaza I work at is cluttered with them daily.
Each scrap of torn ATM receipt,
Each discarded wrapper,
Each melting piece of candy,
Each disgusting wad of gum,
Each wet cigarette butt,
Each copper penny,
Each $10 bill,
Each discarded condom,
Each unopened condom,
Each fallen hibiscus,
Each Styrofoam coffee cup,
Each straw,
Each dead bird,
Each poisoned rat,
Each mangy, abandoned dog,
Each shiftless, homeless bum,
Each grumpy neighbor,
Each rude cashier,
Each irritating mother with her kids,
Each “crazy”,
Each slutty chick,
Each A-hole guy,
Each judgemental parent,
Each uncaring spouse,
Each dreg of this life,
Each drain on your time.

It’s all there on the sidewalk under our feet.
It’s hard to get everything when it rains. Not because it’s wet, but because you can’t see too well, what with the puddles casting up only a reflection.

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The Janitor

My Forgiveness

I realized this today:

One of biggest but hidden reasons we don’t forgive is because we deem our lifetime’s experience unequivocally worse than that of our offenders.

I had to think about that.
If you know me, you know that there are a lot of things which have taken place to me in my past that can easily be understood to be unforgivable. And those are the things I have justified myself to bury. Now I know they have done nothing but enslaved me.
I have thought about that.

But as I dwell on these, I realize that in order to understand the offence I would have to empathize with the offender; to put myself directly in their shoes.
One of my personality traits is that I am an Empath. That sounds cool, doesn’t it? All that it means, however, is that I have a natural bent to empathy. Unfortunately, because it is so instinctual, I also have the ability to withold it, which I have done to those in my life who remain unforgiven.

Another part of my personality traits is that I am Feeling or intensely emotional. And when I am offended or hurt deeply, MY emotions and self-empathy trumps ALL.

There is no possible way for me to put myself in the offenders shoes when that happens.

So this great sounding trait has become my Death Row and I was sentenced to death by my own lethal injection.

Was.

I choose not to be.

I put myself in their shoes and as I do my empathy swells, my heart breaks for them and I am hit by what a healing balm to their pain my unconditional forgiveness would be.
For both of us.

And the silence that follows the shattering of chains and the crashing of unhinged metal bars falling to the ground is peace. Peace like I’ve never known.

Join me?

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The Janitor

The JaHa Bank Building (Night Shift)

JaHa Bank has been a consistent fixture in this community for many, many years and has served us proudly and amicably. You of course realize that “JaHa Bank” is just a pseudonym; I don’t know if I would actually get in trouble for using the banks real name, but why take the risk? JaHa Bank is good enough for you to get the picture.

I am the only nighttime janitor at this location. The building is the original bank office building that was built over a hundred years ago when Toshiro Matsunaga started it to help the Kanyaku Imin, immigrant workers from Japan here to work in the many plantations on the island. Over the years the bank flourished and branches began to pop up all over this island and soon thereafter on the outer islands as well.

Today, JaHa Bank is headquartered downtown in gargantuan building that I’m sure Mr. Matsunaga couldn’t have come close to fathoming. It employs an army of janitors at night, all busy vacuuming and window-washing, scurrying around frantically cleaning up the remnants of the days business. But not so here.

There are 11 people at this location- two less than when it was first utilized by Mr. Matsunaga and his sons- and I make 12. I don’t need to vacuum because there is no carpet; the original Koa floors are still intact. And there are precisely 4 waste paper baskets.
Other than the one large room in which a few desks and chairs are strategically situated, there is a enclosed office on one end directly across from the front entrance. It is relatively modest compared to the downtown behemoth, but I love being there, alone, in the quiet of the night with the precious thought that I am sweeping the very same floors where Toshiro would walk all those years ago.

He was a great man with a great vision born out of helping those who left everything behind in Japan to find good, honest, hard work and build a better future for their descendants. Traveling alone or with their family for months over the Pacific in small, cramped quarters on what one could barely call a floating vessel, and then finally reaching these islands, thus sealing the fate of any hope that they would ever see their beloved homeland again.

Toshiro was one of many Japanese children who were called “Nissei”; second generation children born here in Hawaii, or any land other than Japan, of the “Issei” (first generation) immigrants from the old country. While he attended school, his father, mother and grandmother worked in the sugarcane fields of Wailua everyday to buy food and to save money so that Toshiro could attend the College of Hawai’i now known as the University of Hawai’i.

When he graduated, his family and a few of his friends pooled their money together, built this building and started JaHa Bank. That was 1914.

One of the duties I have here at night is to dust the hanging pictures and glass display cases which hold memorabilia of JaHa Bank’s rich history. In one of the glass cases, to the right of the office door, sits an open ledger book. The top line reads as follows:

Date:   Friday, 3 September, 1915
Name: Matsunaga, Kyoko
Type:   Deposit
Amt:    750.00 dollars

Beside the ledger is picture of Toshiro’s mother, Kyoko, and a battered, black, lacquered bento box in which she would tuck away any extra money with the hope that she would one day save enough to buy a house of their own. One that she and her husband could hand down to their son and his family. Every night she would take one or two of the coins she received for gathering, bundling and carrying sugar cane to the mill and she would place them softly in the bento box and slide it safely under her bed.

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She was JaHa Bank’s first customer.
Though Toshiro had planned to open on Monday, September 6, his mother insisted that he take her down to the bank that Friday and open her account before anyone else was able to open theirs.

I looked up from my broom and imagined him opening the door for her, bowing low as she glided gracefully past, clutching the bento box to her kimono.

I smile, in awe of the past.
In awe of unrelenting goodness.
In awe of unexpected answers in unbridled hope.
In awe of the power of one simple thought
to change the unchangeable and move the immovable.

I smile, in awe, that I still have a chance.

The Janitor

The Restroom

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Cleaning a restroom is always important to me. If there’s any place on my route that’s more critiqued and scrutinized for whether I’m actually good at my job, it’s the restroom.
And really, it should be.

Among the many necessities of our species and in order to maintain good health and well being, the function of eliminating waste is pretty close to the top of the list, in my opinion. Food and water, the intake of sustenance, of course, but right after that would be, “Okay, now what do we do with the leftovers?” (No pun intended.)
The Restroom is one place that supply’s that need. Or maybe, we supply the restroom’s needs. Nevermind; that thought will take us in another direction.

It is a private place to do private things, how ever you may define “private“.
And when those private things need to be taken care of, we feel more comfortable doing those things in a safe, clean environment.

That’s where I come in. Literally.

Things may get messy, that’s the nature of things (again, no pun intended). Things may even get outright gross. But the great thing about a restroom is that we can leave it there, and just walk away.

In our relationships, we need a place that’s safe and clean to take care of things that are totally natural, but unfortunately pretty messy. For instance, mistakes, big or small, can cause tremendous havoc on one’s spirit and on their environment. As learning, sentient beings, mistakes are a natural occurrence; it has the potential to grow and expand our life if we allow it. But having a safe, clean place to experience that mistake ups the chances of that mistake becoming a positive influence on our life’s journey rather than something that will stop us and slowly tumble us backwards, rolling destructively down the hillside of our failed attempts.

And mistakes hurt; that’s a given truth. If they didn’t, we would have continued on blissfully and obliviously to our demise.

If you’ve been hurt by another’s mistake, and your relationship to them is cordially platonic, you may find that after the initial hurt, there’s very little reason to dwell on the subject. Because sometimes if you do, your imagination mixed with your unattended hurt feelings will fill in the blanks of missing information and cause you to stew and steam over something that really doesn’t exist. And as we say in the Janitorial business, that’ll get messy.

However, if you’ve been affected by the mistake of one you love and care for and desire in your life, then after you realize that your hurt, which was expected, is subsiding, you must make your love for that other person a safe, clean environment where they can learn and understand the ramifications of their mistake, but also so that they can be pointed toward a point of healing, not hopelessness.

An act of redemption like that will cause atonement like none other because it is based on unconditional Love.

Of course, if they just want to take a toilet paper roll, stuff it down the toilet and flush it causing an epic overflow draining through the roof of Michiko’s Nail and Beauty Spa downstairs, well, it’ll have to be cleaned up and everything made clean and safe again for the next visitor.

Which is what I’m about to do…

No one said it would be easy.

The Janitor

Disposable Disposables

It’s amazing what people throw away- empty cups, burger wrappers, Styrofoam peanuts -all kinds of stuff. The thing that hit me as I was dumping out some trash this morning at work is that at some point we needed these! They were a necessary part of the ultimate fulfillment of an essential want had in our lives. But, as I noticed this morning, our commitment to these extraneous elements is temporary, and extremely fleeting at that.
Perhaps this is why we chose to put them under a label and categorize them as “Disposable” in an effort to alleviate our guilt or responsibility to their future. If we see the word “Disposable” literally or in our minds, we are quite fine with saying, “Well, that’s what I’m supposed to do with it. I mean, that’s what Disposable means, right?”

Actually, it isn’t.

The “Disposable” moniker means that you can throw it away; not that you should or you must or even that it is illegal or even hazardous to you if you don’t. It simply means you can, if you chose to do so, dispose of that item with little or no consequence to you personally.

Like Disposable Diapers.

Or Tampon applicators.

Or plastic bags.

Or Family.

Whether it’s “disposable” or not is, in fact, entirely up to you.

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The Janitor